It’s no more complicated than that. Insulation doesn’t MAKE heat or COLD it just resists any change; and so you feel a somewhat constant temperature.
Oh, and if you can stop all the leaks, you can save a bunch of money.
Here’s another tip: If just 2% of a surface is uninsulated, the overall insulation R-value drops by 40%! So make sure you don’t miss ANY spots.
Poor Insulation is a national problem. In many homes, the actual installed insulation is only 20% to 50% of what was promised. This house was no different. Worse, there was NO ACCESS to the upper attic of the 2nd story, so NO ONE ever checked.
So I cut a hole into the attic and up I went. What did I find?
- The maximum insulation was 3-1/2 inches of loose fiberglass
- About 10% of the attic had ZERO insulation
- 24 Pot lights were open to the outside air (not covered)
- All of the soffits extending into the rooms were uninsulated (the photo to the left shows the uninsulated soffit area in the guest bathroom).
- ALL electrical access holes and fixtures leaked lots of air.
Let's fix it
I had heard — Before I moved in — that it cost over $1000 a month to heat this house. The heat pump alone had trouble raising the temperature much over 55 deg F in the winter. Insulation will change a LOT of that. A natural gas furnace will fix the rest (that is a separate project).
None of this is complicated. Anyone can do it. You just need attention to detail. Here’s the PLAN:
1 Build covers from insulated foam board to seal off all those open soffits into the rooms below. Use a Foam Gun to make the panels airtight.
2 Rake up all the loose fiberglass. (We’ll save it in big plastic bags for the last step). Then look for any holes where electric wires enter the attic and seal off the holes.
Likewise, seal all fixtures and any cracks where air gets into the building.
3 Cover the 24 pot light fixtures and the 6 speakers with air-tight, fire-proof enclosures. Foam these air-tight.
Then replace all the halogen and incandescent lamps with cooler LED lamps that cost 1/7th as much to run.
4 INSULATE. First layer is 3.5″ fiberglass with a vapor barrier. This comes up to the top of the wood in the trusses.
2nd Layer is 12″ UNFACED fiberglass laid 90 deg to the first layer. This covers all the exposed wood below it.
5 Remember all that loose insulation we raked up?
Now spread it over the top making sure you fill any gaps in the insulation below.
We now have 3 layers of insulation plus a vapor barrier that was missing before.
Lastly, we’ve stopped all the air infiltration.
The R-value? Figure 18″ of insulation @ R3.3/inch = R60. Not too shabby.
We started with the attic because most heat is lost out the top of the house.
After that, we turn to any walls that can be upgraded. The foto to the right shows how the FINISHED wall in the upstairs closet looked. No drywall, just loosely positioned 4 bits of insulation. Of course, the air just blew right past it so the insulation was completely wasted.
The photo to the far right shows the same room after :
- Fiberglass insulation was replaced
- Walls covered with 3/4″ insulation board
- Then 5/8″ drywall and painted
Lastly: Do not overlook the smallest detail
- The one major theme: Insulate and Stop the Leaks. Insulation can do little good if the air just blows in past it. Every place where a pipe or wire penetrates an outside member, the space gets filled with insulating foam.
- All hot water pipes get wrapped in pipe insulation. Throughout the whole house if I can get to the pipes.
- In the cellar or crawlspace, Insulate all rim joints, too. Since I turned the crawlspace into “Conditioned Space” (no longer open to the outside) I insulated the cellar walls with 2 layers of foam insulation.
In the attic over the first floor I found a large 12″ thick column of insulation that rose about 6′ high, turned 90 degrees and went into the equipment room of the 2nd floor.
What could this be?
I peel back the 6″ fiberglass insulation with paper vapor barrier to find a tiny 1/8″ copper line? What??? Seems this is a water line that feeds the humidifier for the upstairs heat pump. With some investigation I discover that this copper line BURST some time in the past before I bought the house, and caused 10’s of thousands of dollars damage to the rooms below.
I did find the spot in the line where it broke and saw where they soldered a patch.
I can only surmise that the plumbers were told that water lines must be in “Insulated Space” so they wrapped insulation around the copper tube. However — without a source of heat — this copper line will just freeze once again. All water pipes must run through HEATED, INSULATED SPACE. If you don’t heat your house in the winter, then ALL the pipes will freeze.
You hire and pay Professionals figuring they understand this.
I turned off the water to that line.